Freezing! Armies before 0AD at Avignon 2019
Sargonid Assyrian vs Kushan
The evening before it had rained cats and dogs, or, more accurately, Chiens ate, erm, Chats. After dodging betwixt the rain showers, the hardy band of Franco-Greek-British warriors settled into digetsing a sophisticated meal in the sort of upmarket chi-chi restaurant frequented by well heeled locals, the like of which us mere wargamers rarely ever get to press our runny little noses up against the windows of never mind actually eat in.
At a civilized hour the last dregs of the eating team went for a couple more pints just to round off the evening, tryied again to avoid the rain, failed, got soaked and then made it back in pitch darkness to the hotel, and then it was suddenly tomorrow.
And, today tomorrow was Sunday and the Assyrian Empire was gazing down on all of creation from the heady heights of almost the top of the leaderboard with only a couple of French players between them and eternal glory and success. And probably some decent dice.
But definately some cheese for breakfast.
The first game of the 4th round on the 2nd day saw the mighty Lions sitting high up the table in 2nd place, and with that position they managed to race up the page of history to face a far later post-Alexandrian Kushan army from the deserts and blasted hillsides of Afghanistan.
The Assyrians had hastily repaired their chariots from the previous day, replacing more wheels, axles and spokes than Triggers brush had had new parts, and were now raring to go
The lists for the Sargonid Assyrian and Kushan from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Avignon can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Along with Hind attack helicopters, CIA-provided manpads and rusting hulks of IED-terminated T55's the Kushans were sure to bring both Cataphracts and Elephants to this particular party, neither of which the Assyrians were particularly keen to fight.
A battle in which the mobility of the small and punchy Middle Eastern Kingdom's forces would need to be fully utilized in order to force a win to keep the momentum going.
The table was almost devoid of feature, with only a couple of patches of basic agriculture featuring in a meaningful position.
" Fabrique en Belgique! " The Kushans had a Double Death Star, possibly in anticipation of one of the surprises said at the time by those on internet forums to be coming up in the final part of the Star Wars nine-ology of movies, and this behemoth was teed up to trundle down the centre as the largest block of Cataphracts ever seen protected its left flank and a skirmishing force of half hearted cavalry sat as wingmen on the other.
The Kushan Empire
Seeing a major Death Star was like catnip to the lone unit of Assyrian Javelinmen, and they raced forward somewhat over-optimistically towards a date with destiny, with swinging trunks (not in a 1970's seaside wife swapping guest house sort of way of course) and most likely a double overlapped matchup against the swordsmen in the Death Star command.
" Boeuf a la mode! "
Two Assyrian chariots meanwhile started to wonder if they were supposed to take on the line of Cataphract Nobles on their own.
The nearby presence of the Assyrian Heavy Foot was supposed to be reassuring the expert chariot drivers doubted very much if HF Swordsmen were really top of the list to stand up to Elite fully armoured lancer swordsmen
On the other flank the Assyrians lighter wheeled command was puzzled.
" You plonker! " Man for man, chariot for chariot and horse for horse they were better than the lacklustre Medium Cavalry facing them but the Kushans had a definite advantage in numbers, and even then the presence of uneven terrain would make it difficult for the Assyrians to really achieve much else in the rolling up the enemy army stakes even should they be able to use their initial impact power to force an early win.
Learning French from tapes
The Death Star was unmissable, and being rather tired and a little hungover the Assyrian commanders had already committed themselves to the route of maximum bravery.
Their plan was to converge all of their best infantry on the Death Star and look to withstand the elephant charge whilst chopping their way through the much squishier Indian Mixed Bow/Swordsmen units providing the pomegranate-jam-based filler in the Elephantine Death Star triple-decker club sandwich-like behemoth closing fast on their position.
History generally teaches us that this is not A Good Plan.
In a vague facsimile of tactical expertise the Assyrians here can be seen imposing a full-court press on much of Kushan army, but cleverly holding back against the Cataphracts.
Clouds of arrows were falling like autumn leaves on the Kushan army as the pockets of Assyrian bowmen reloaded and drew back their bowstrings furiously, but like leaves falling on anything other than a railway line in the South East of London the Kushans were merely irritated rather than inconvenienced - they rolled forward regardless.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrians are spread across the table, but the Kushan army is skirmishing against half of the Assyrian Chariot force and is driving forward with both its Death Star and Wall of Cataphracts in the centre.
Terrain has attracted the Death Star, and the Assyrians anticipated this and have pitched all of their best infantry against where they expected it to be. A decisive clash of the two armies best troops beckons, and is almost certain to decide the game.
At least some of the plan seemed to be working - the starburst of different, sub-par threats the Assyrians could deploy against them had finally tempted the Kushans to break apart their wall of steel.
" Al Dente! " Now Cataphracts were roaming across the savannah like prides of halitosis-inflicted lions on the annual Kiss Your Neighbour Whenever You Meet weekend.
The Assyrian Heavy Foot knew they were sacrificial speed bumps, but their task was to die as slowly as possible while the rest of the army - in the shape of Elite Cavalry in this shot - drove forward and tried to engage the softer underbelly of the non-Cataphract Kushan forces.
The Assyrians had also coordinated two commands to try and halt the Death Star in its tracks.
Spear buts anchored in the ground (tricky for Swordsmen admittedly) the Elite Royal Guard girded their loins and prepared to tough it out against the fearsome charge of the pachtyderm force who themselves were somewhat hamstrung by the unwillingness of their Mixed Shooter filler to get to grips with troops clearly better than them.
The battle raged in the centre as the Assyrian army extended its line out towards the literal edge of the world with chariots and cavalry.
" He who dares, wins! " The Kushan skirmishing cavalry did exactly what it said on their tin and fell back in the face of this provocation, shooting furiously as they retreated and peppering the advancing proto-Mesopotanians with arrows of outrageous fortune.
Even so, the eroded capabilities of the Assyrian chariotry were looking increasingly unlikely to be tested in actual combat on this flank as the rest of the army was drawn inexorably into combat.
Michael Wood on the Kushans
Having winnowed off Cataphracts from their herd the Assyrian Nobles turbocharged their wheeled battle carts and rumbled forward to seek an opportunity to strike the decisive blow to blast apart the very centre of the Kushan army.
With nudist slingers in close support the battle was joined, the extra impact of the Chariotry being tested against the resilience of the fully-armoured mounted Iranians in a clash which would surely have a telling effect on the outcome of the entire conflagration!
What's Going on Here Then?
The Double Death Star is engaged, but the Assyrians have not managed to get their troops into good order to absorb the elephantine charge and so the Kushans are attacking without exposing their weaker Indian infantry who sit between the pachyderms in the centre
The Assyrian Chariot force is split, half neutralized and skirmished out of the game but the rest - including the powerful chariot-mounted General - is now into combat against the end of the line of Cataphracts. Both armies have commmitted their capital troops to the fray
The Assyrian Guardsmen were barely hanging on as the Indian Elephants of the Kushan army clattered into, through and over them in a stunning display of the power of better factors and equal numbers of overlaps on each side of the battle.
" Je suis frontiers! " Even the Indian bowmen were showing great stoicism at the extreme flanks of the Kushan line in places where Assyria was surely hoping to record a quick victory to begin a decisive rollup of the enemy line - this was not going according to plan at all.
Assyria's chariotry were also coming up short in the winning things stakes, as the heavy armour of the Cataphracts time and time again negated any dice or factor based advantage the Assyrians could generate.
The densely packed ranks of Middle Eastern Biblical infantry were also more bobbins than biblical as they shattered and fled at the first charge they were tasked to withstand.
Now the centre of the battlefield was looking more like a breakthrough for the slow-moving Kushan Cataphract grinding machine than the stylish and well-wallpapered Assyrian battle carts of yore.
The centre was also now rapidly collapsing into a shambolic debacle, as Assyria's finest failed time and time again to inflict anything even remotely resembling a reverse onto the Kushan's mighty pachyderms of war.
Elephants rampaged in all directions and skittled away the crème of the Assyrian army with alacrity as the resistance the Royal Guard were supposed to be putting up ended promptly.
" Bonjour Trieste! " Even the Assyrian Javelinmen, seeking to evade away from an enemy charge, managed the ignominy to be caught by a long-distance-charging opponent. This was not going to plan.
As the elephant corps got its sh-t totally together to not only hoover up, but turbo-power Dyson up the shell-shocked block of Assyrian infantry in the centre, the saddest thing of all was to see the Assyrian javelinmen waste a 6-1 to pull out a cheap and yet unsatisfying win against the Indians who had clattered into their rear only moments ago.
28mm painted elephants
Assyria's Chariotry were now totally surrounded, their supports stripped away on one flank by the fearsome elephantry and on the other by the utter failure of the Assyrian Heavy Foot to last more than a few moments against Kushan mounted nobles.
" Au revoir " The game was now merely a question of time - whether the lunch buffet would be set out by the time it ended or if it would still be the tail end of the croissant and cake-based breakfast spread which would confront the Assyrian commander as he finished packing small men into a small tin.
The Assyrian centre was gone, and Kusharia's Elephant Corps were still completely untouched.
Yet again the theory of bestowing Elite status on non-Impact Medium Foot Swordsmen just because they look quite cool in green tunics had proven to be at best woefully incorrect and the compounding of this error by actively seeking to put them into harms way had undone the Assyrian centre.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrian centre has evaporated under the assault of the Indian elephants, sweeping away the Assyrian elite foot before they even have a chance to engage the vulnerable Indian bowmen. With no centre the Assyrians have no troops to spare to send to support their outnumbered Chariots, who are facing down the Kushan Cataphracts and being quickly outnumbered. Things look grim for Assyria.
The final nail was hammered hard into the Assyrian coffin by the steel-clad hammer blows of Kushan Cataphracts.
Surrounded, shellshocked, outnumbered and beaten the supposed cutting edge of the Lions of Mesopotamia had been well and truly blunted by superior technology from what for them was the far and unimaginable future.
The game was over, and it was time for lunch.
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition, or read on for the post match summaries from the Generals involved, as well as another episode of legendary expert analysis from Hannibal
Post Match Summary from the Sargonid Assyrian Commander
Come on, this was a fair result, all the points between me and my opponent and me split straight down the middle, 85-15. I mean, against such modern technology as these Cataphracts what could my old fashioned 3-wheeler horse drawn carts expect to do really? I think I did well to get a share of the spoils here and if anyone contradicts me I'll set Rodney on you!
And where is this army from anyway? Personally, if you are going east with your army I'd always not stop in the Hindu Kush but go always as far as China. I am a big Ming fan myself. He made some wonderful stuff, that Ming. Pity he had to go and die when he did eh? Bringing together elephants and cataphracts is pretty clever really even if I admit it myself.
A kinder set of combat results when the Chariots charged home, or even any luck at all against the pachyderms would have mae this a much different game quite quick sharp, but it was not to be.
At least I had a lovely jubbly meal last night and have a 5th game to go to still make sure I make off home in the Reliant with some silverware!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Christ on a bike, you've got a face like a constipated rat but no doubt you need to contory yourself into knots to claim any credit from this utter routing.
I thought we may have beaten out of you that sad obsession with taking on the opponents best troops as your supposed battle winning strategy, but no, here you go charging towards a Doube Death Star with your undercooked infantry formation, and splitting your chariots and taking them away from the only wide flat bit of land on the whole table. I mean, where else would the cataphracts be ?
This was as horrible as the movie version of Cats. In fact, one day they might make a musical about the Assyrian performance in this battle. Then, as a sequel, they could do Schindlers List on ice, just to jolly things up a bit.
At least there is a lunch to look forward to, and after that just the next game until this nightmare is all over.
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition